When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11)
According to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.
Gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh:
Bringing Honor and Status to The King of Kings
Such things as the Magi had; it being usual, not only with the Persians, but other eastern nations, to make presents to kings and great persons, when they made any addresses to them; which generally, among other things, consisted of gold, spices, myrrh, and the like, see:
( Genesis 43:11 )
( 1 Kings 10:2 )
( Psalms 72:10-15 ) .
Which last passage referred to, being a prophecy of the Messiah, has been thought by some now to have had its accomplishment, together with ( Isaiah 60:6 ) where frankincense as well as gold is mentioned;
The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord”
According to the Ethiopians, these wise men were three, whose names they give us;
- the name of him that offered the gold, was Annoson;
- he that offered the frankincense, was Allytar;
- and he that offered the myrrh, Kyssad F5. [ F5 Ludolph. Lex. Ethiop. p. 539, 542, 543]
The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6).
Spiritual Significance of The Magi’s Gifts
In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—
- Gold representing his kingship,
- Frankincense a symbol of his priestly role,
- And Myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming.
Some practical application of these ancient Gifts to the modern-day Believers
God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.
Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship? In a most excellent article by John Piper from his devotional page: http://www.desiringgod.org/:
Piper states that the gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying,
- “The joy that I pursue (Matthew 2:10!) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself.
- And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things.
- By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.’”
I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
May God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”
As an addition to the First Fruits Perspectives family, I am honored to collaborate with Life in The Vine Ministries: http://www.thesourceoftruelife.com/
This ministry is the labor of love of Pastor Barry and Janice Stewart. Life in The Vine Ministries primary focus is on providing Biblical based counseling and prayer to people who are experiencing difficult situations in their lives. It includes inspirational daily devotionals that I know will be an encouragement to you as you walk through the course of your living. Please visit their site and be blessed of the Lord!
Grace and Peace
Alonzo E. Thornton